If you have travelled through England, the New England seems weirdly familiar. Boston, Manchester, Worcester, Portsmouth, Portland and Dover are all well known places in England. Essex County has a namesake back in England (they play cricket there), and the American version has quite a few place names with there roots back in England. Ipswich is one such place, but the English version isn’t in the county of Essex, it is the county town of Suffolk. Ipswich, Massachusetts was founded by John Winthrop the Younger, son of one of the founders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. He settled here in 1633, but the settlement was then known as Agawam an anglicised version of the name of a local Indian tribe. When the settlement became an incorporated town in 1634, the name was changed to Ipswich after its English namesake. Its location on the Ipswich River meant that fishing and shipbuilding were early industries. Farming also developed, with the river powering mills and the salt marsh providing fodder for livestock. However, the Ipswich River was not deep so as ships grew bigger they went to deep water ports such as Salem. In 1868 a hosiery mill was established by the Ipswich River which grew to into the largest stocking mill in the USA by the early 20th century. Other mills were set up, but their success was short lived with demand declining after World War I eventually leading to closure. We hadn’t planned a stop in Ipswich, but passing through we were impressed by the number of well preserved historic buildings.
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Hall Haskell House
We will start our brief tour of Ipswich with with a building that is, er, relatively modern. Charles Hall and his wife bought the property that stood on this site in 1819 and in 1820 they erected this building on the site. The upper floor was their home while they ran a general store on the lower floor. Charles Hall died in 1825 and the house was sold to widow Eunice Smith Caldwell Haskell. Later the property was acquired by local businessman John Heard (see Ipswich Museum below) and his family owned it into the 20th century. By the 1980s the house was in a poor state of repair and was threatened with demolition. In 1878 the Town and Massachusetts Historical Commission jointly funded the restoration of the building. The Hall Haskell House is now used as the Ipswich Visitor Center and as an Art Gallery.
And now for something much older than the Heard House. The oldest part of this house was built by Captain John Whipple at the corner of Saltonstall and Market Streets back in 1677. The house was extended and modified by Whipple’s descendants in the 18th century. In later years it was a boarding house for mill workers. It was in serious decline when the Ipswich Historical Society purchased it in 1898. They restored it and opened it to the public as a House Museum in 1899. In 1927 to avoid destruction it had to be moved to a new location on the opposite side of the river. The Whipple House remains a House Museum as part of Ipswich Museum and open at the same times.
The Heard House was built in built in the Federal-style in 1795 by John Heard. He had made a fortune from a rum factory and later invested in a mill. The Heard family lived in the house until 1939 when it was purchased by Ipswich Historical Society. They put the building to good use by by using it to house Ipswich Museum. It is open Thursday to Sunday between may and October. Although we passed through Ipswich on a Friday, we had no time to explore the museum.